Skip to Content

BLM Working To Make Abandoned Mine Lands Safe

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is being honored by PETA for saving a dog that tumbled down a 50-foot mine shaft earlier this month.

Hubert Quade was out in the Crooked Creek area west of Dubois on Jan. 6 when his English Pointer named Chester fell down the unmarked hole.

The sheriff’s office used a tow truck and boom to lower Chief Deputy Boyd Eddins to the bottom to rescue Chester.

The story had a happy ending, with Chester suffering only a few bruises. But Quade and the sheriff’s office don’t want the old mine shafts, which are on Bureau of Land Management territory, to cause a tragedy in the future.

So how do federal agencies like the BLM handle the holes?

BLM officials said since Idaho is part of the Old West, it has a rich mining history. While the Abandoned Mine Lands program has been operating since 2000, the BLM said it’s doing its best to keep up.

“The Arco area, Mackey, Salmon, (and) Challis have significant mining that occurred there in the past,” said BLM Public Information Officer Sarah Wheeler, pointing it all out on a map.

For history buffs seeking old mine shafts, the Gem State has plenty of hidden gems. But recreators beware!

“Unfortunately, with public abandoned mine lands, often we don’t know they’re out there until they get reported,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler said there are an estimated 3,600 abandoned mines on BLM land alone in the state of Idaho. Only 1,200 have been confirmed and resolved, said Wheeler.

“A lot of times (they’re) found through geologists who go through a lot of literary research to determine areas that might be more prone to mining,” said Wheeler.

Agencies such as the BLM have limited annual budgets, so the mines are prioritized based on proximity to people.

“Funding goes to fill those mines first or close those mines and then we work our way down the list with the funding we do have available,” said Wheeler.

The BLM has to consider how filling the holes will impact both people and wildlife. For example, said Wheeler, if bats are using a mine that’s more like a cave, it may just be fenced off.

But the more dangerous mines, like the ones exposed in Pocatello when last summer’s ‘Drive-In’ fire burned away vegetation, need to be filled with dirt or a polyurethane puff.

“The materials have a chemical reaction when they come together,” said Wheeler. “What they do is they start filling the space. Then they spread out then harden.”

Wheeler said the hole Chester fell into has been flagged, and crews are working on a long-term plan to seal it off.

Not all old mine shafts are on BLM land. They can be on U.S. Forest Service grounds or private property, too.

Wheeler said if people run across them, they should not go inside them.

The most important thing, she said, is to let one of the agencies know so they can make it safe.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

News Team


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content